The anticlimactic middle school drop-off

Is it wrong as a parent to want a little drama? A little upset-ment? A little kicking and screaming and “Why world?!? Don’t make me go!”

Is it wrong to think that starting 6th grade — this major milestone, this turning point in the lives of the Thompson household, this big new, adventure — shouldn’t be so easy?

Or is that kind of selfish?

Because the first day of school — of middle school! — was pretty anticlimactic. Downright dull, and even un-eventful. It felt a bit like every other day.


MY BABY IS GROWING UP, PEOPLE! (And she doesn’t seem to mind.)

All summer there was anxiety about this big switch from elementary school. We weren’t allowed to talk about it. She had a gag order from a local judge preventing any discussion of middle school within a 30-foot radius of her. “DON’T TALK ABOUT IT!” she would demand. “You’ll ruin summer.”

“I just said I dropped my pencil,” I would reply.

But by the first day, it was a different story. Maybe Sebastian Middle School did too good a job acclimating students with all the open houses and orientations. New students arrived already knowing their hallways, their classrooms, their teachers, where their books went, what friends were in what classes, even whether the bathrooms had paper towels or those jet-blast dryers.

Way to go! Thanks to this proactive, caring and downright smart approach, there was zero kicking and screaming at drop-off. No major trepidation. No cries of, “Father, mother, please take me with you! I love you so much and cannot bear the thought of being separated for even one moment!”

Car door opened. “OK, see you later.” Car door closed.

And it was over. “Did that just happen?” I asked my wife. “Like, I mean, that’s it? She’s a middle schooler?!?”

It was an odd-feeling driving off. And it dawned on me: It doesn’t get harder. Not for them, at least. It gets easier. They can’t wait to get out of the car. They don’t need us as much. They don’t fear the world like they used to, or expect us to make everything right for them.

There used to be hugs goodbye on the first day. Tears even.

But not middle school. One day I dropped her off too early and the doors to the school hadn’t even opened yet. I apologized before she got out: “Hey, I’m sorry I messed this up. You fine hanging out – ”

“OK, bye. See ya!” and the car door slammed.


As I drove around the drop-off circle, I peeked over to see where she would go. Would she be alone? Look lost? Feel abandoned?

Little stinker found a friend and was already chatting it up. Extra hangout time!

My baby is growing up, people. (And she doesn’t even seem to mind.)

Also published on Medium.

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